FHU Professor, Teenager with Autism Communicate Through Music

Faculty / Staff // June 29, 2017

“We’re learning to talk to each other through music,” Dr. Richard England said of his newest piano student, Coleman Dove. England, a Freed-Hardeman University music professor, has begun a relationship with Dove, a Chester County teenager with autism.

Dove learned the names of notes and found them on the keyboard — with no prior experience and in only a half-dozen informal sessions. The two are now working on using the black keys and white keys and  playing fast and slow and soft and loud. England explains and plays and Dove imitates. “I’m trying to see how far he can follow me,” England said. At this point, the answer is three notes. Dove is also able to play a C major scale, play with right or left hand when asked and play simple two-note chords and simple songs when directed to play specific notes one at a time.

England, certified in Tennessee in special education and music, also has completed post-doctoral work in child psychology, leading to an endorsement as a school psychologist. He worked as a music therapist at Arlington Developmental Center in the early 1980s before joining the FHU faculty. He calls upon his various experiences in his work with Dove. “Music is a medium of communication and self-expression. If he can imitate, maybe he can initiate,” England added.